by Scott McCloud
graphic novel, art, death
This is an intense read. It is also a fantastic example of a novel in graphic form. Scott McCloud of Understanding Comics and Making Comics fame has come out with his first full length, adult graphic novel.
It starts out with David eating in a dinner, staring at his hands. He is joined by a suprise guest, his great uncle Harry. His great-uncle Harry who passed away. You get David’s story about how he is the walking cliche of the starving artist, he has his talent, drive, and integrity, but he’s also had his 15 minutes of fame. Harry it turns out has a deal for David. His life for his art. It’s not a cut and dry “sell your soul” for fame. David only gains the ability to make the art that he sees in his mind when he dreams. Or he can ignore his great-uncle/grim reaper Harry and live out an entirely ordinary life upstate in the burbs someplace.
On his way to a gallery showing he has an encounter with an angel who descends from the heavens, to tell him that “everything will be alright” before disappearing into a flutter of doves. After making an ass of himself (which is somewhat of a recurring theme for David) he is dragged by his only friend in the world to a party. Where it turns out the “angel” from before is also in attendance. Her name is Meg and it turns out that the whole encounter was a performance piece and he was the target. David does not take this well. But they end up on friendly terms.
It’s also about this time that David’s deal kicks in, and he can sculpt stone with his bare hands as if it were clay. He can finally make the art the he envisions. The catch is that he now has 200 days to live. Inconveniently he falls in love with Meg. He also has to struggle with his talent and focus with his art, which even with the ability to mold stone with his bear hands doesn’t come easy.
The art is fantastic, Scott McCloud gives the characters a simple style, but still conveys an astonishing range of emotions across his characters. He also does a fantastic job of showing the movement and creation that happens when David is making his art. McCloud’s panels evoke a cinematic, fluid quality for the book that engulfs you (at least it did for me). Towards the end there are sequences where he plays with timing that absolutely blew my mind.